BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Each week leading to the November 6 election, the candidates running for Berkeley Heights Township Mayor and Township Council have the opportunity to answer question(s) that will be run in a series by TAPinto Berkeley Heights.
The following answer is from Mayoral Candidate Angie Devanney (D) for week two.
Week 2 Question: What is your recommendation for an infrastructure plan to handle the impact of the addition of approximately 1,000 new housing units as part of the Affordable Housing Settlement? (Please include scope of impact on roads, services and infrastructure.)
Berkeley Heights is on the precipice of significant change. With nearly 1,000 housing units slated to be built by approximately 2020, we need to plan 2, 5, 10 years into our future. Roads, fields, public safety, the sewer plant, public works will all feel the impact.
First, as Mayor, I will institute a fee on any incoming development to lessen the burden on our town. I successfully negotiated this fee while working on a luxury housing project in a nearby town and stand ready to do the same here.
Second, we should institute a Citizen’s Review Committee comprised of different residents from across the community, facilitated by our planning and engineering professionals. This will allow us to assess our needs for 2020 through 2030 by reaching into our community and listening to our residents and business owners.
Surprisingly, our township Master Plan has not been substantially updated since 2007 despite all the new development. Berkeley Heights deserves a government that will be proactive rather than reactive. We will pass resolutions and ordinances that put “teeth” into a new Master Plan and the Citizen’s Review Committee’s recommendations.
Third, I will look for other sources of revenue or areas to ease the pressure on the municipal budget, such as the township sewer plant. Other communities are sharing wastewater services and making long-term investments in energy projects so that plants can become a net zero energy facilities. While these may be long-term solutions to ease the burden on our taxpayers, we need to look beyond the immediate future and plan for our children’s future.
Fourth, I would create a coalition of recreation groups to pool funds and make significant improvements to our fields. When Mountainside and New Providence have received $300,000 and $400,000 more grant dollars from the County’s Open Space program, we need to reassess how we leverage our recreation dollars. As the author of grant applications for the Kid’s Recreation Trust Fund and Greening the Streets, I understand that leadership starts at the top. As leaders like State Senator Vin Gopal have noted, we must stop working in silos and bring our shared resources together.
This focus applies to other areas that we need to support, like library grants. I will advocate for Berkeley Heights’ fair share of the state Library Construction Bond Act funds, along with increased funding from the Union County library grant. With a municipal complex that has a price tag of $32 million, we need to take advantage of every grant dollar.
With proper planning, innovative ideas, proactively running our government by including our community groups, non-profit organizations and others, we will be ready for our new future.